IOC weighs ban on Rus­sians

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - GRA­HAM DUN­BAR

LAU­SANNE, Switzer­land — Rus­sia could be banned from com­pet­ing at the Pyeongchang Olympics, a prospect that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has al­ready warned would be hu­mil­i­at­ing for his coun­try.

The de­ci­sion will come on Tues­day when the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee ex­ec­u­tive board meets in Lau­sanne, less than nine weeks be­fore the games open on Feb. 9 in South Korea.

The 14-mem­ber board, which in­cludes two Amer­i­cans, has re­ceived a so-far con­fi­den­tial re­port from an IOC-ap­pointed panel. That panel was asked to as­sess if Rus­sian state agen­cies did or­ga­nize the dop­ing pro­gram used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach, a Ger­man lawyer long seen as an ally of Rus­sia, is sched­uled to an­nounce the de­ci­sion early Tues­day af­ter­noon.

It might not be the last word, how­ever. Rus­sia can chal­lenge any IOC sanc­tion by ap­peal­ing to the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport.

Here is a look at the case, and the pos­si­ble re­sults:

Pun­ish­ment op­tions

• A to­tal ban on Rus­sia com­pet­ing in Pyeongchang.

• Some Rus­sian ath­letes com­pete, if judged to be clean un­der long-term dop­ing con­trols op­er­at­ing to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. They would be classed as neu­tral ath­letes com­pet­ing un­der the Olympic flag, and would be de­nied hear­ing the Rus­sian an­them if they win Olympic gold. Those rules were im­posed on Rus­sian ath­letes at the ath­let­ics world cham­pi­onships in Au­gust.

Putin has said ei­ther of those out­comes would be hu­mil­i­at­ing, and could pro­voke a Rus­sian boy­cott.

• The IOC board could ask the seven gov­ern­ing bod­ies for Win­ter Olympic sports to de­cide on in­di­vid­ual ath­lete el­i­gi­bil­ity. That com­pro­mise ap­plied to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

• Im­pose a fine on the Rus­sian Olympic com­mit­tee. Tens of mil­lions of dol­lars could go to­ward an­ti­dop­ing work world­wide.

Time­line

A big red flag regarding Rus­sian dop­ing went up in July 2013, weeks be­fore Moscow hosted the ath­let­ics worlds. Bri­tish news­pa­per the Mail on Sunday re­ported wrong­do­ing by Grig­ory Rod­chenkov and the Moscow lab­o­ra­tory he di­rected, but its claims were mostly ig­nored.

In De­cem­ber 2014, 10 months af­ter the Sochi Olympics, Ger­man net­work ARD broad­cast a film by jour­nal­ist Hajo Sep­pelt about ex­ten­sive dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics us­ing footage se­cretly filmed by whistle­blow­ers.

The World Anti-Dop­ing Agency later ap­pointed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion panel chaired by Richard Pound, a long-serv­ing IOC mem­ber. That panel in­cluded Richard McLaren. Their reports in Novem­ber 2015 and Jan­uary 2016 led to the sus­pen­sion of Rus­sia’s ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tion, anti-dop­ing agency, and the Moscow lab.

The Pound team in­ter­viewed Rod­chenkov and con­cluded he was a key part of a con­spir­acy of sup­ply­ing banned drugs, cov­er­ing up dop­ing cases, and ex­tort­ing ath­letes.

Rod­chenkov fled to the U.S. and de­tailed in a May 2016 in­ter­view with the New York Times how, as lab direc­tor for the Sochi Games, he helped Rus­sian ath­letes cheat. He said 15 of Rus­sia’s 33 medals were tainted.

WADA ap­pointed McLaren to ver­ify the fresh al­le­ga­tions. Within two months, he de­liv­ered an in­terim re­port be­fore the Rio Olympics which up­held Rod­chenkov’s ev­i­dence.

“It can’t pos­si­bly be done by a cou­ple of rogue in­di­vid­u­als, or even a rogue de­part­ment of an or­ga­ni­za­tion,” McLaren said last week of Rus­sia’s dop­ing pro­gram.

The IOC then set up two com­mis­sions. One chaired by IOC mem­ber De­nis Oswald ver­i­fied McLaren’s ev­i­dence to pros­e­cute cases of Rus­sian ath­letes from Sochi. A sec­ond, now chaired by a for­mer pres­i­dentof Switzer­land, Sa­muel Sch mid, was to as­sess if an “in­sti­tu­tional con­spir­acy” ex­isted.

Sochi pro­gram

Rod­chenkov said some Rus­sian ath­letes at the Sochi Olympics used a fast-act­ing “Duchess” cock­tail of per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing steroids dis­solved in al­co­hol.

Dur­ing the games, the ath­letes were pro­tected by a urine-swap­ping scheme to re­place dirty sam­ples with clean urine stored months ear­lier. The late-night swaps went via a “mouse hole” into a se­cured room at the Sochi test­ing lab­o­ra­tory.

Se­cret ser­vice agents found a way to break into tam­per-proof sam­ple bot­tles and re­turn them with clean urine, Rod­chenkov claimed.

Cleaned-up sam­ples could fur­ther be tam­pered with by adding salt to make them more cred­i­ble. In cases of some play­ers in Rus­sia’s women’s ice hockey team who did not have stored urine, male DNA was found in retest­ing of sam­ples that are rou­tinely stored by the IOC for 10 years in Lau­sanne.

Rus­sian de­nials

Rus­sia de­nies a state-spon­sored dop­ing pro­gram ex­isted. It blames Rod­chenkov, call­ing him a rogue em­ployee, and wants the sci­en­tist ex­tra­dited from the U.S., where he is a pro­tected wit­ness.

“There has never been and will never be any state pro­grams re­lated to dop­ing,” Rus­sian Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Vi­taly Mutko said on Fri­day be­fore the soc­cer World Cup draw in Moscow.

Mutko, as sports min­is­ter in 2014, was im­pli­cated in the Pound and McLaren in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and also in Rod­chenkov’s hand-writ­ten di­aries which were made avail­able to the IOC. Oswald’s panel called them “sig­nif­i­cant” ev­i­dence be­fore The New York Times pub­lished ex­tracts last week.

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